How to Genuinely Compliment Someone Who Deserves It

Done well, compliments are a great communication tactic that serve to make your conversational partner feel good. But, done poorly? Well, they can easily make people feel uncomfortable—and even suspicious.

So, how do you give genuine praise that sends the message you want and doesn’t cause the other person to cringe? Make sure you follow these five key tips.

1. Be Authentic

While it might seem somewhat obvious, the secret to seeming genuine is to actually be genuine. Before you dish out a compliment, make sure that you’re doing so because something truly deserves recognition—and not just because you want to fill the silence or seem polite.

Phony, insincere comments are easy to spot immediately. So, this is yet another instance in which honesty really is the best policy.

2. Don’t Overdo It

In a similar vein, it’s best to avoid going overboard with a string of compliments. Yes, doling out a long stream of niceties might seem like a surefire way to foster a reputation as a positive and kind professional.

But, unfortunately, the pendulum can also swing the other way—causing you to seem like a total disingenuous brown-noser. Plus, think about it this way: If you’re constantly voicing compliment after compliment, they’ll quickly lose their impact and hold almost no value for your recipients.

3. Get Specific

Broad, vague, and completely open-ended compliments can be somewhat awkward to receive—and even more awkward to respond to. This is why the most effective ones are specific.

Rather than saying something general like, “You’re so smart!”—you’ll want to narrow things down a bit.

Something like, “I was really impressed with that sales report you recently compiled. You did a great job with it!” demonstrates a real level of interest and engagement in what that person did—making your compliment seem that much more legitimate.

4. Keep it Short

When it comes to complimenting someone, the shorter the better. While you might feel tempted to ramble on about that person’s amazing accomplishment, keeping things brief is always your best bet.

Why? Well, if you keep going, you run the risk of watering down your initial message and making your conversational partner feel uneasy with that much praise and attention.

So, while your efforts to express endless adoration are admirable, do your best to keep things concise.

5. Be Relevant

As with anything, timing is key when it comes to paying an effective compliment.

Telling your colleague how much you love her sweater while gathered around the coffee pot in the morning is great. But, doing so in the middle of a team brainstorming session? Well, it’s not quite as appropriate.

Make sure to consider time and place before chiming in with your praise. Context can make a world of difference.

Complimenting your colleagues is a great way to foster a reputation as polite and friendly—as long as you do it right. Remember to follow these five tips, and you’ll dish out compliments that are sincere, rather than cringe-worthy.

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Photo of people talking courtesy of Hoxton/Tom Merton/Getty Images.

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